The sun set on the West Coast tonight without any clean water in Ahousaht and no official word on when it may return
The tiny community located on Flores Island, about 20 kilometres north of Tofino has been without a potable water supply since a water main break forced it into a state of emergency on Friday
As of this posting there has yet to be a further update on the situation from the First Nation council, or a response from the federal government about whether or not it would be providing aid.
The most recent post on the Ahousaht Nation Facebook page was made very late Monday by Michael Swan.
“Ahousaht has attempted to repair water line with no success this evening we went to the beach at 9 pm and just got back in. Our initial plan was to use a machine to dig to get rid of the water, but the machine excavator broke down half way down the hill. The tides are not on our side right now which makes this tough we did not reach the pipe yet.
“We need machines here to make things easier we have 2 but are not working at this moment so tomorrow we will work on machines to get them going and try again. We are not giving up hope. we are very appreciative and blessed with the help we are getting. …god bless you. God be with us.”
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns is urging Ottawa to do something about the situation.
“We need immediate action,” the NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni said late Monday. “This community can’t wait another 24 hours for a sizeable amount of water and the resources necessary to take care of the displaced members. We need government action immediately.”
He said Ahousaht officials did an “incredible job” to organize evacuations of local elders and children to Tofino and Lone Cone but can’t do it all without some assistance.
“A lot of people were counting on going home to Ahousaht and being with their family. This is a very important time of year for everybody in our communities during the holiday season but especially for remote communities where people take the time to travel far distances to be close to their community and we know how tight the Ahousaht community is,” he said.
“We’re urging the government to do everything they can to get water to the Nation, to provide the resources for accommodation and meals for those members that have been displaced and, if necessary, to provide some of the experience and people that can help remedy the line break given the difficult challenges that this community’s facing.”
He noted the area where the break occurred is below sea-level making a quick-fix unlikely.
“They’ve had a difficult time tackling the line-break because of the tides…They’re looking at other ways, maybe even using divers, to try to repair the line but it’s a big task,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to wait until Dec. 27, when the next low tide is, to fix this line. That’s past Christmas and that would mean a lot of members being displaced for a great amount of time.”
The people are facing challenges beyond just drinking water. According to a Facebook post by resident Marcie Callewaert the waterless community was also forced to battle a fire.
“During a water outage in Ahousaht (No running water available in homes or to fire hydrants) a trailer caught fire due to yet unknown causes.
“A great bunch of men and women came together with buckets and sea water while the firemen worked to get the tanker truck in operation. Many worked to dampen the neighbouring house which experienced some minor heat warping on the siding.
“Everyone was safe and there have been no reported injuries at this time.
Johns contacted Canada’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennet’s office Monday morning to urge for immediate support.
“We didn’t waste anytime. I was on the phone early this morning to contact Ottawa when Ottawa opened. We’re working the phones and making sure we’re getting action,” he said.“It’s a serious health concern to not have potable water…Where the government can come in is order the water and figure out who can pay for it later because the people in the Nation are actually dealing with the crisis at hand on the ground and we need them using all their resources to support their members.”
He added the region is stepping up to help out.
“People have been driving all the way to the Coast to get water on boats and up to Ahousaht,” he said.
Anyone willing to help out by donating water are encouraged to contact Ahousaht deputy chief councillor Patti Charleson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-670-9531.
— files from John McKinley